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Affiliated Film ProducersWho's Boss? (1950)

something has gone horribly wrong 8-p
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Husband and wife struggle to attain a balance of power in their marriage. This neorealist social guidance film was directed by Alexander Hammid.


This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives

Producer: Affiliated Film Producers
Sponsor: N/A
Audio/Visual: Sd, B&W
Keywords: Marriage; Social guidance: Marriage; Gender roles

Creative Commons license: Public Domain


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Average Rating: 4.50 out of 5 stars4.50 out of 5 stars4.50 out of 5 stars4.50 out of 5 stars4.50 out of 5 stars

Reviewer: Marysz - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - May 21, 2006
Subject: Anyone for Housework?
Mike and Jennie have a marriage more typical of couples today than in 1950, when the film was made. Shes a photographer and hes a writer. They collaborate on their stories and make about the same amount of money. The film opens with Jennie alone in their apartment after a fight with Mike. We hear her thoughts in a voice-overEgotist! . . . Well, hes got a door to slam and so have I! Jennie feels Mike doesnt appreciate her work: He ought to be glad Im working! She suspects a reason: My work isnt important enough! Im only a woman! Their apartments a mess and she doesnt want to get stuck doing all the housework: Im the one whos married, but he can act as if he were single! Then we hear one of her greatest fears: Im not going to be a fool like mother, bending over a wash tub all her life! We cut to Mike, whos checked into a hotel room and sits down to write (work comes first!) while angrily grumbling to himself that he cant understand why Jennie cant be like his mother. She refuses to even sew on a button! Mikes idea of family life is Jennie cooking and cleaning up after him. But Jennies no foolshe refuses to buy into such a demeaning ideal of domesticity. ??Fortunately, they manage to accommodate each others needs. Mike has to learn to clean up after himself (a big step). With Mike helping out around the house, cooking doesnt seem as degrading to Jennie. They make up a budget in order to save up for a house. As the film ends, theyre living in a house and have two kids. Jennie is still doing photographyshe gives her photographs a final rinse in the kitchen sink. Since so much of the conflict in the film involved household chores (too bad Roll-Oh wasnt around to help out), I couldnt help thinking that they could have saved themselves a lot of grief by hiring someone to come in to clean and cook for them. But maybe that would have made this left-wing couple feel they were being exploitative. Jennie is permanently disgruntled throughout the film and Mike never stops acting aggrievedthese two were made for each other. Its no wonder their son prefers to spend his time at the top of a tree in their front yard. This film could better be called "This Charmless Couple."

Reviewer: ERD - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - May 18, 2006
Subject: Excellent ideas.
"Who's Boss" has some very good points, despite some 1950 elements being dated. So many marriages end up in divorce because people don't seem to have the patience or discipline to take out the time to work out problems. The film was well acted and directed.

Reviewer: autoguy - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - May 18, 2006
Subject: The deadly cycle.
Ah yes, another installment of the "Festering Emotional Illness Series" showcasing more psychotic behaviour. So? Got problems huh? It seems our story opens with some whining bag that has chosen to marry some slob like her father, and doesn't like the results. Well, certainly that would be somebody else's fault, right bag? After all, she's only been around a jerk that like her whole life, so just how the hell would she know what one looks like, right? Dumb bag, DUMB! And this guy Jackson? Yeah, he's cracking up. Mom took care of dad dammit, where's the NEW mommy to take care of HIM? He needs a button sewn on. He doesn't have time to do such things, he's too busy sitting in a hotel room whining about needing a button sewn on. Well, that should be enough, time to kiss and make up. At least until the next cycle. Ok, that didn't last long. Look honey, can't you see he's too busy laying on his dead ass on the couch to help around the house? Punch me, punch you, a lovely couple really, they both have all the charm and personality of a DEAD FROG.

Fast forward 7 years and we see a whole new world. It would seem this couple has discovered wedded bliss through the wonderful new antidepressants on the market. Yes, better living though creative chemistry, much better now. All's well that ends well.

Reviewer: Spuzz - 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars - September 18, 2005
Subject: Does not star Tony Danza.
ANOTHER interesting short done by Alexander Hammid. Not too sure, who this guy was, but man, did he produce the most angsty shorts ever. Here, in ÃÂÃÂWhoÃÂÃÂs Boss?ÃÂÃÂ we follow a couple through 7 years of married life, from their almost-collapse to their happy domestic life with their kids. I donÃÂÃÂt know if this was intentional or not, but this couple look extremely bored and dejected to wind up in domestic life. The couple have hardly any chemistry between each other, which would be interesting if that was the point. The wife in my opinion, was too quick to accept her husbandÃÂÃÂs way of thinking, and now, she seems stuck, and she seems to have accepted it. So, it would be interesting if they thought that people would see this and realize that marriage is not built around love, but more around companionship.

Shotlist

Shows that compromises and adjustments are necessary in maintaining a happy marriage, stressing that patience, love and understanding help achieve a good balance where neither is boss, but both are partners. Correlated with the textbook 'MARRIAGE FOR MODERNS.'.


The last film in the Marriage for Moderns series, Who's Boss deals with competition in marriage. Like This Charming Couple, it is set in a rarefied world-that of urban journalism-and like most of the films on the disc, it expresses gender-related contradictions that are still very much with us today.
Flavored with the peculiar kind of realism shared by all the films in the Marriage for Moderns series, Who's Boss tells the story of Mike Jackson, a newspaper reporter, and Virginia Chase, a photographer, who just cannot resolve what today would be called their power relations. "My work isn't important enough," Virginia complains. "I'm only a woman. But he, the man, is boss. He'd like me to be a slave to the house while some cutie on the paper whispers into his ear what a great, big reporter he is! . . . I'm not going to be a fool like mother, bending over a washtub all her life while dad went around free as air!"
Mike, who is spending the night in a cheap hotel, fumes. "Where do women
get the idea that they wear the pants? She can't even find time to sew on a
button for me! I'll show her who's boss!"
The irresoluble conflict comes quite early in this movie, but fortunately
Mike and Virginia seem to want to work things out. In any case, they have
been given better-than-usual conflict resolution skills. Their battles are
fought with reduced weaponry, and the substance of their differences seems
shallow. Although they are sophisticated people in a complex era and work
in a hard-boiled business, their disagreements come down to the same old
same-old: time management, the value of one another's work, budgeting, and
friends. These real problems touching on real power issues between men and
women here are solved too easily.
Cut to seven years later and their suburban house, populated by delightful,
noisy little children. They have come to an understanding and now function
as partners rather than competitors. Mike commutes to work in the city;
Ginny, who has become a housewife and mother, pours over photographs in the
family room. It seems that Ginny's acceptance of a homebound role is the
price paid for marital peace. The marriage works, assisted by an odd set of
nonverbal communication signals activated when a spouse is in distress.
"It's a good deal for both, this partnership without a boss!" says the
narrator. Who's really boss? Draw your own conclusions.
A contemporary description said, "Ginny and Mike are each successful in
their separate business careers, but combining their careers with marriage has not been nearly so successful. After two years, and in spite of a mutual love, the marriage is a series of conflicts on finances, friends, and on their whole way of living. The quarrel with which the film begins reveals how reluctant each one is to surrender any part of his individuality to the essential compromises of marriage. Shocked by the threat this offers to their marriage, they determine to make an honest, co-operative effort to save it."


Ken Smith sez: Not all was sweetness and profit in the fifties. A rare glimpse of reality in the 16mm world; from that brief time when educational films aped good Hollywood productions, not Father Knows Best. This was produced by the same company, in the same year as Choosing For Happiness, and it was correlated with the same textbook. Watching that ding-dong film and then comparing it with this shows that educational filmmakers sometimes COULD affect the way information was interpreted.
The storyline is simple: photographer Virginia Chase and reporter Mike Jackson are married, they work at the same newspaper, and they can't stand each other. As the film opens, we see them sulking separately, accompanied by grumpy VOs.
"My work isn't important enough," Virginia mopes. "I'm only a woman. But he, the man, is boss. He'd like me to be a slave to the house while some cutie on the paper whispers into his ear what a great, big reporter he is!" Virginia refers to Mike sarcastically as "his highness" and adds, "I'm not going to be a fool like mother, bending over a washtub all her life while dad went around free as air!" Whew, pretty heady stuff for 1950.
Meanwhile, Mike has moved into a dumpy room in the Daniel Boone Hotel. "Where do women get the idea that THEY wear the pants?" he snorts. "She can't even find time to sew on a button for me! I'll show her who's boss!"
From this point on the film loses steam. Virginia and Mike visit a marriage counsellor who tells them it takes "sweat and tears" to make a marriage work. The narrator asks: "Who was to blame? Neither and both." And the film ends with Virginia and Mike now successful in their careers and happy (most of the time) as homeowners with children. "It's a good deal for both," the narrator cheers, "this partnership without a boss!"


Money marriage couples sex roles gender roles sexism women men Safety Danger Lurks
Transcript follows:

Virginia (Voiceover):
Egotist. If he thinks I'm going to sit home and cry my eyes out. . . He's got a door to slam, well so have I. I can make my own living just as well as he can make his. He ought to be glad I'm working. Just because he can't stand competition, he wants me to quit. My work isn't important enough. I'm only a woman. But he, the man, is boss. He'd like me to be a slave to the house while some cutie on the paper whispers into his ear reporterese. Look at this mess. The way he throws his clothes around. It wouldn't hurt His Highness to show a little interest in the house. I'm the one who's married but he can act as if he were single. He wouldn't dream of wearing a wedding ring no matter how much I tell him I like it. But I'm as good as he is. I've got a brain of my own and I intend to make the most of my life, too. Yes, I want a home and kids. But I'm not going to be a fool like Mother, bending over a washtub all her life while Dad went around as free as air. A woman's place is in the home. Why His Highness ought to wear side-whiskers and carried a gold-headed cane. If he thinks I'm going to obey his every command, he can get right out of my life. And I mean it Ñ right out of my life.

Mike (Voiceover):
That's a woman for you. Never tell what she'll do next. And all the time I thought she was so sweet and tender. What a temper. Lucky I ducked out when I did. How could I win. I'm only a man. Oh well, copy won't wait. Where do women get the idea that they wear the pants. Must be her diploma. To a man, it's a piece of paper. But Virginia Ñ she's got the world at her feet. Way she hangs on to her name you'd think it was a shame to be a Jackson. I write the copy but it comes out as a picture story by Virginia Chase. She'd break her neck for a good shot but our home is like a bachelor rooming house. It's about time she learned what comes first Ñ marriage or her job. Everybody else lives a normal life. Why can't we? I'm fed up with warmed-up leftovers and dishes in the sink. She can't even find time to sew on a button on for me. How Mom used to take care of Dad. And how happy both of them were. Virginia's got no such respect for a man. What was she thinking of when she said 'I do.' A roommate to help with the dishes? What does a man work for Ñ beating his brains out to make something of himself Ñ if his wife doesn't look up to him? Instead she competes with me and makes a half-man out of me. And a half-woman out of herself. And I, like a fool, thought I was getting a wife. I'll show her who's boss even if we wind up in the courts.

Narrator:
This wasn't the first time the Jackson's marriage had shown signs of cracking. And the next morning, as had happened many morning-afters, they were assigned to the same story. Here they were Ñ who was to blame? Neither. And both. Each one felt he was being asked to give up more than he could afford. Yet almost without knowing why they moved toward each other and fumbled for some way of coming closer together. Let's go some place and talk, Mike said.

Mike:
Thank you.

Virginia
This was my last assignment, Mike.

Mike:
Why? What happened?

Virginia:
"Nothing. I've made up my mind. I'm quitting the job."

Mike:
Are you serious?

Virginia:
Um-hmm.

Mike:
What would you do?

VIrginia:
Nothing. Stay at home and hand you your slippers when you come home at night.

Mike:
Oh, Ginny. I wasn't trying to defeat you.

Virginia:
Then what was all that yelling about last night?

MIke:
I was a fool. You know, after I cooled off last night, I found I'd been hanging on to a lot of ideas I don't really believe in any more. I realized I'd miss your puttering in the darkroom.

Virginia:
Mike, you don't have to prop me up.

Mike:
No, really. I like a woman who's doing things, Ginny. I didn't marry you so you'd admire me and laugh at my jokes. You've got a mind of your own and you've got to use it. It's about time I accepted you as you really are.

Virginia:
Darling. You don't know how much you're saying. It's like getting a wonderful present. I feel like Ñ oh, I don't know...

Mike:
Well, here's my padded shoulder.

Virginia:
You know, when we disagree, it's a good idea to disagree about things we really don't agree about.

Mike:
That was a mouthful.

Virginia:
I'd like to get some shots of the kids in the park. Let's straighten up and go outside. It's too nice a day to stay in the house.

Mike:
Why don't we forget about cleaning up and go then?

Virginia:
Oh no. I hate to come home to a messy house. The least you could do is pick up your clothes.

Mike:
The least you could do is to forget about your job on Sunday. I hate weekends like this.

Virginia:
So, you didn't mean a word of what you said yesterday, did you?

Mike:
No, that's not what I meant. But can't we have a little bit of a family life? At least on Sunday.

Virginia:
Oh, we might as well have this out again. Sure, I want a family life. But if I'm to keep up my job I can't do all the housework myself. You've got to do the few things I asked you to, Mike.

Mike:
Are you trying to boss me again?

Virginia:
Oh, Mike.

Mike:
Okay Ginny. This is the last time you'll have to tell me. What do you want me to do?

Virginia:
Okay, okay. We're up.

Mike:
Ginny, you're doing things to me. A year ago I'd have heard that alarm in my dreams and slept on.

Virginia:
I feel good, too. I feel like splurging tonight. It's payday.

Mike:
But we were out only the day before yesterday. Everyday seems payday to you. One day we go out. The next day you buy a chiffon nightgown. But we never save a penny that way.

Virginia:
It's my money. The toast is gonna burn.

Mike:
Don't run away. I want this straightened out.

Virginia:
I thought you weren't going to moan to me anymore.

Got a cigarette?

Virginia:
No, you haven't brushed your teeth yet. And don't change the subject. Do I look good in a chiffon nightgown or don't I. Or don't you notice anymore?

Mike:
I do, Dear. I didn't mean to pick on that. I'm just trying to make a dollar worth a buck. That's my point.

Virginia:
Well how do we do that?

Mike:
It's something we'll have to fight out.

Virginia:
I think it's just one of the things we'll have to work out. Breakfast will be ready in a minute. You waste as much money as I do, Mike, and you know it.

Mike:
Who me?

Virginia:
Yes, how about all your taxicabs and fancy lunches and cocktails and things?

Mike:
Oh that's a business investment.

Virginia:
You mean an alibi, don't you

Mike:
All right, so I've got no head for money.

Virginia:
Oh no don't get cross. I'm not trying to start an argument. From now on why don't we both write down every cent we spend.

Mike:
That won't help, we'll just spend it anyway.

Virginia:
Well what will help?

Mike:
A budget.

Virginia:
Oh, that would depress me, Mike. I'd feel like a dependent on an allowance.

Mike:
That's the only thing that'll make a marriage like ours work.

Virginia:
What about love. Doesn't that come first?

Mike:
Of course, it's got to rest on a balanced budget.


Mike:
There you are. We've still got forty dollars of our week's pay left. Mind you, that's after all bills are paid. The doctor, your allowance and mine. Everything taken care of.

Virginia:
Now what are we going to do with all this money?

Mike:
Tell you what Ñ you just write down everything you've ever wanted.

Virginia:
All right. I like this part of it.

Mike:
Go ahead, just splurge. I'll write mine down too.

Virginia:
Let's see: Rolleiflex, fur jacket, some new china. Hey, this is fun!

Mike:
Wait a minute. We wanted a vacation. We must save something for a vacation.

Virginia:
Yes, I need a vacation, too. Oh I see, we have to cut out something.

Mike:
And Ginny, another thing, remember? A house? and a kid or kids? and a car? We've got to start saving.

Virginia:
And all that out of forty bucks?

Mike:
A week. Don't forget, that's a lot of money in a year. And we can cut down on our allowance, too. Look, if I cut down on cigarettes and on cabs Ñ I bring in another tens dollars. Why that's five hundred dollars a year.

Virginia:
Let's see the food budget. If we eat home two more days a week Ñ and look that fur jacket can wait, too.

Mike:
Baby, you catch on quick.

Virginia:
Fun to make money like this.

Mike:
Ginny, we've just made a chunk of dough. It's sixty instead of forty a week now. Why that's wonderful.

Virginia:
Mike, you're wonderful. Where would I be without you?


Virginia:
Well, there goes the budget.

Mike:
It was your idea.

Virginia:
That city desk friend of yours, the one that was making passes at Marge. I thought he was disgusting.

Mike:
If you must know, that genius photographer friend of yours bores me stiff.

Virginia:
Why do we have to have two sets of friends anyway.

Mike:
That's right, why?

Virginia:
Incidently, you could have mentioned that I made the cake myself.

Mike:
Sorry. But you could have let me get half-way through one story without breaking in on it.

Virginia:
I guess we haven't learned yet not to compete with each other. Oh, I'm tired. You know the Robinsons that live up the street in that new house you like. I keep meeting her at the grocery all the time. She's asked us in lots of times.

Mike:
What's her husband like?

Virginia:
I think you'd like him.

Mike:
Yes, I think it'd be a good idea if we made friends with some neighbors. Next time you see her tell her we'd be delighted to come.

Virginia:
What's today?

Mike:
The twentieth.

Virginia:
And last month, when we did that hospital story, when was that?

Mike:
Ninth, no tenth. Why?

Virginia:
I think you'd better take me to the doctor tomorrow.

Narrator:
It's seven years now since the Jacksons decided to work at their marriage. It's no coincidence perhaps that for the last seven years the marriage has worked for them. Not perfectly, of course, but well enough. They were tough years, too, full of crises and the normal run of trouble. But the Jacksons took them in stride. Mike has won his promotion by hard work Ñ the same way he has made himself a happy home. A little luck, but mostly sweat and tears. There have been two additions to the family. Tom is seven and a budding Tarzan. Mike gets a kick out of seeing young muscles and skills develop. He can nearly remember when he was seven himself. So long, fella, be seeing ya. They get along pretty well, these male Jacksons. With themselves and with their womenfolk.

Virginia:
Hello, Mike. Thanks for bringing those things.

The couple still need kid gloves from time to time. But they've figured out ways to handle ticklish situations. Virginia's apron, when it's worn astern means 'take it easy. I need tender lovin' care tonight.' And Mike's got his own danger signals. His spinning hat says 'it's one of those days when a fella needs a friend.' I see you had a hard day. Not so hard that a warm greeting can't help a little.

Virginia:
Let me finish this. I'll be with you in a minute.

And even now Ñ

Mike:
Can't you teach Tom to keep his junk out of the way.

Virginia:
Why don't you watch where you're going. Tom's part of this family, too, you know.

Mike:
But he has to learn to keep order some day.

Virginia:
Oh he will but losing your temper won't do it.

Narrator:
But nowadays such scenes don't end with one of them sulking. The relationship isn't brittle, always at the cracking point like it used to be. Mike isn't troubled by the fact that Virginia still has her own work to do once in a while. They've long since stopped worrying about who's breadwinner and who's housemaker. Mike's dignity is much more flexible since he discovered that a wet baby loves whoever changes her Ñ male or female.

Virginia:
Dinner's almost ready. Come any time. It'll be awfully simple.

Narrator:
He learned his techniques when Tom was an infant. And he's mighty proud of his tender touch. Why not? Some guys boast of their sensitivity to the feel of a fishing line. Mike thinks handling a prima donna is even trickier. Home life at the Jacksons, like most American home life, is a curious jumble of interests and needs. To make it everybody's family table takes a lot of doing. Mike and Virginia have learned they can make it theirs by being aware of everybody else's wants. By taking time out for the others they make time for themselves. These days, Virginia is proud of Mike's success. They're not competing anymore. Why should they? Budgets and careers and differences of personality don't have to mean trouble. It's a good deal for bothÑthis partnership without a boss. The fruits of adjustment are a little noisy but might sweet.

[The End.]

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